While many in Silicon Valley recall the scandal of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Nicole Taylor, the foundation’s new chief executive, is ready to turn a new leaf.
Taylor replaces former Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO Emmett Carson, after he resigned following claims of misconduct by a top foundation executive, Mary Ellen Loijens.
Loijens resigned due to allegations of sexual harassment of employees.
The investigations and Carson’s resignation, caused an administrative shakeup within the foundation, and notoriety in the media when foundation workers slammed him for failing to address Loijens’ alleged repeated wrongdoings.
In the wake of the former administration’s departure, Taylor said she and her team have continued “rebuilding the cultures and the values within this organization.”
She said the healing process began before she accepted the job with the creation of an internal task force for foundation employees to voice their concerns and sustain a safe working environment. Apart from the foundation’s recent scandal, Taylor said the foundation’s donors are still there and “the fundamentals remain the same.”
“We’re not starting from zero,” Taylor said.
When Taylor introduced herself during a meet-and-greet with members of the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits on Tuesday, she began by introducing other board members in the room. Then she told her story.
“I grew up in Los Angeles and I’m a daughter of an immigrant,” she said in a full room at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits. “People are always surprised when I say that because even those of us who are in the fight have preconceived notions of what an immigrant family looks like.”
Taylor’s mother came to America from Jamaica as an unpaid domestic worker for a Chinese family. Her mother wasn’t paid until she began working for the family’s business. By that time Taylor was in high school.
Her mother immigrated “with barely a sixth-grade education,” Taylor said. But her mother also had different plans for her. Taylor’s mother would drive her to school and tell her “you’re going to make something of yourself.”
“I lived in two different worlds,” she said. The American world, and the poor immigrant world.
She recently moved back to California from Arizona, where she served as vice president of the Arizona State University foundation and as deputy vice president and dean of students. Before Arizona, she spent about half her adult life in the Bay Area, earning a full-ride to Stanford where she received her undergraduate degree in human biology and master’s degree in education.
And her career took off from there, beginning in the Oakland public school system where she was an educator.
“I knew that education was going to be our way out of poverty,” she said, “so as soon as I could moved her out of the family and in with me.”
Since then, Taylor has worked in education from kindergarten through college, ran the East Bay Community Foundation as president and CEO and served as Stanford’s associate vice provost of student affairs and dean of community engagement and diversity.
“I tell that story because that is what fuels me to do the work that I do,” Taylor said. “The struggles and realities of the families and communities that we serve here, I know very intimately and care very deeply about because I lived it.”
As the new head of the largest philanthropic organization in the country, Taylor said she wants to plugged into the needs, cultures and meetings of her foundation’s partners to continue opening doors for marginalized communities.
During the meet-and-greet, Taylor asked for input from representatives of dozens of nonprofits in Silicon Valley. They voiced concerns related to their own work.
Lack of housing, funding for senior care, displacement of small businesses by tech-giants, lack of in-home caregivers, difficulty hiring nonprofit staff, poor workers needing “a house and a spouse” — all of these are concerns voiced directly to Taylor on Tuesday.
But Taylor said she’s had to “turn the ship” around before — and that she’s ready to take on the challenges in front of her.
“With Nicole’s leadership, experience and commitment to serving local communities, I know SVCF will continue to make a profound impact,” said Greg Avis, SVCF’s interim president and founding chairman, in a November 2018 press release. “I am confident that SVCF’s talented staff will flourish under her guidance. I look forward to working with Nicole over the coming months as she transitions into the role.”
Leslye Corsiglia, executive director for nonprofit Silicon Valley At Home, said the foundation is a key component to her organization’s success. She said the foundation’s new leadership is a sign of positive growth in this region.
“I think it’s great that they have a new leader who is looking to bring the organization forward,” Corsiglia said. “Nicole showed us today that she’s committed.”
Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.